3 things you need to know before starting a fashion business

Think you could be the next Natalie Massenet or Nick Robertson? Before you start a fashion venture, check out these tips from Styloko's Ivailo Jordanov

For many entrepreneurs, the glamour and buzz of the fashion industry makes it an appealing and extremely popular arena to start a business in.

How men and women shop and the ways in which new technology can improve the consumption of fashion has given birth to an endless list of potential business opportunities.

However, before you go running head-first into starting that fashion venture you’ve always had in mind, there are a few key things you need to consider:

Competition

Whilst a firm understanding of the competition a new start-up may face is key, fear of what else is available in the market shouldn’t prohibit you from pursuing new concepts. There can’t be innovation in any marketplace if the fear of competition scares entrepreneurs away from starting a new business.

That said, there is a lot to be learnt from the number and type of competitors who have created similar businesses and in understanding the success they have achieved and how.

It’s critical to get a handle on what the direct and indirect competitive landscape looks like early on in the planning process of your fashion business. Here are some questions you should think about:

  • How many competitors are there and what are they using as metrics to gauge success? Why are there so many or so few fashion businesses in a particular vertical?
  • How does the media cover these businesses?
  • Where are these businesses located? (Note: The fashion space today is global and competition comes from across the globe).

This type of analysis is not just important to understand whether there is room for your fashion business to muscle in, it’s also critical to understanding the funding options available. The options for securing investment will be heavily reliant on the experience investors have had with other start-ups in this space, so get to know the players and even your peers, quickly.


Useful links:
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea.

You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.


Industry vs. consumer

Another potential pitfall in the fashion start-up space is losing sight of consumer needs and preferences. It may seem counter-intuitive considering how richly consumer-facing fashion businesses appear to be but, as well as focusing on what people are buzzing about, it’s important to address what the consumer actually needs.

There is so much glamour and excitement within the fashion industry, it’s easy to get caught up in this and forget actual consumer needs. At the end of the day, sometimes you need to solve the un-sexy problems for your target end user first and foremost. For the team at Styloko, this has meant finding a way for our customers to discover products without having to ‘put in to words’ what they like, or being able to quickly browse products in the few minutes our female shopper has free while in the Starbucks queue.

It’s important to take the time to understand deeply who and what your fashion business is solving – and the fastest way to do this is to actively talk to your target audience.

Content vs. good technology

There is seemingly no end to the number of beautiful imagery available to fashion start-ups, and the appetite for beautiful, colourful and creative websites continues to grow.

Despite the understandable desire to make your fashion start-up ‘fashionable’, it’s also critical to not forget about technology. Ultimately, solid infrastructure and a well-performing website or mobile app will be more important to your fashion start-up’s success than merely how your website looks.

If a business fails on the technology front, consumers are less likely to forgive or forget – just look at the reviews for poorly performing apps to see how far the pendulum can swing if a customer is dissatisfied. However, this doesn’t eliminate the importance of your site looking and feeling premium and aspirational.

With thorough preparation and detailed planning, you may just be able to create the ‘next big thing’ in the fashion space.

Ivailo Jordanov is co-founder of personalised shopping engine Styloko.com.